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- Mysteries of Paris, V3 - 60/89 -
his daughter. "Marie, my child, listen to me; it is your father. Pardon--Oh! pardon for not having retained this secret longer. I have killed her!"
"Calm yourself, my lord," said Clémence; "there is, doubtless, no danger. See her cheeks are tinged with color; it is the shock--only the shock."
"But hardly convalescent, she will die. Woe is me!"
At this moment, David, the black physician, entered precipitately: holding in his hands a small box filled with vials, and a paper, which he handed to Murphy.
"David, my child is dying. I have saved your life--you must save my child!" cried Rudolph.
Although amazed at these words of the prince, who spoke of his child, the doctor ran to Fleur-de-Marie, whom Lady d'Harville held in her arms, took hold of the young girl's pulse, placed his hand on her forehead, and turning toward Rudolph, who, pained and alarmed, awaited his doom, he said: "There is no danger, let your highness be assured."
"You speak the truth--no danger--none?"
"Not any, your highness. A few drops of ether, and this attack will pass over."
"Oh! thank you, David--my good David!" cried the prince, warmly. Then turning toward Clémence, Rudolph added, "She lives--our daughter will live."
Murphy had just cast his eyes over the note which David had placed in his hand; he shuddered, and looked at the prince with affright.
"Yes, my old friend," said Rudolph, "in a short time my daughter will say to Lady d'Harville," My mother!'"
"My lord," said Murphy, trembling, "the news of yesterday was false."
"What do you say?"
"A violent attack, followed by a fainting fit, had caused them to think that the Countess M'Gregor was dead."
"This morning there are hopes of saving her."
"Oh!" cried the prince, while Clémence looked at him with surprise, not comprehending his altered appearance.
"My lord," said David, still occupied with Fleur-de Marie, "there is no cause for the slightest uneasiness. But fresh air is necessary; the chair can be rolled on the terrace by opening the door of the garden, she will then soon recover."
Murphy ran immediately to open the glass door, and aided by David, he gently rolled the chair into the garden, leaving Rudolph and Clémence alone.
"Ah! madame," cried Rudolph, as soon as Murphy and David had departed, "you do not know that the Countess M'Gregor is the mother of Fleur-de-Marie!"
"I thought her dead; and what you are still ignorant of," added Rudolph, with bitterness, "is that this woman, as selfish as ambitious, loving me only as a prince, had, in my younger days, contrived to lead me into a marriage, which was afterward dissolved. Wishing then to marry again, the countess has caused all the misfortunes of her child by abandoning her to mercenary hands."
"Ah! now I understand the aversion that your highness had for her."
"You comprehend also why she wished to ruin you by infamous anonymous communications! Always impelled by her implacable ambition, she thought to force me to return to her by isolating me from all endearments."
"Oh! what a wicked intention!"
"And she is not dead!"
"This regret is not worthy of your highness."
"It is because you are not aware of all the injury she has caused! At this time, when, on finding my daughter again, I was about to give her a mother worthy of her--oh! no, no--this woman is a demon of vengeance in my path!"
"Come, your highness, take courage!" said Clémence, wiping away the tears, which fell in spite of her: "you have a great and holy duty to fulfill. You said yourself, that henceforth the fate of your daughter should be as happy as it had been miserable; that she should be as elevated as she had been abased. For that you must legitimatize her birth; for that, your highness, you must espouse the Countess M'Gregor."
"Never--never! It would be to reward perjury, selfishness and the mad ambition of this unnatural mother. I will acknowledge my daughter; you will adopt her, and thus, as I hoped, she will find in you maternal affection."
"No, you will not do that; no, you will not leave the birth of your child in the shade. The countess is of a noble and ancient house; for you, doubtless, this alliance is disproportionate, but it is honorable. By this marriage, your daughter will not be legitimatized, but legitimate; and thus, whatever may happen to her, she can be proud of her father, and openly acknowledge her mother."
"But to renounce you--is impossible. Oh! you do not think what happiness it would have been for me, divided between you and my child--my only love in this world."
[Illustration: THE PLEA FOR CHARITY]
"Your child remains to your highness: heaven has miraculously restored her to you. Not to be perfectly happy will be ingratitude!"
"Oh! you do not love me as I love you."
"Believe it, your highness, believe it; the sacrifice that you make to duty will seem less painful."
"But if you love me--if your regrets are as bitter as mine, you will be very unhappy. What will remain for you?"
"Charity, your highness! that admirable sentiment which you have awakened in my heart; that sentiment which has caused me to forget so many sorrows, and to which I am indebted for so many sweet and tender consolations."
"Pray listen to me. Be it so: I will marry this woman; but once the sacrifice accomplished, will it be possible for me to live with her, with her who only inspires me with aversion and contempt? No, no; we shall remain forever separated; never shall she see my child. Thus Fleur-de-Marie will lose in you the most tender of mothers."
"But there will remain for her the most tender of fathers. By the marriage, she will be the legitimate daughter of a sovereign prince of Europe; and thus, as your highness has said, her position will be as splendid as it was obscure."
"You are without pity. I am very unhappy."
"Dare you speak thus--you, so great, so just--you, who so nobly comprehend duty, devotion, and self-denial? A short time since, before this providential revelation, when you wept for your child with such bitter tears, if any one had said to you, 'Make one wish--one alone, and it shall be realized,' you would have cried, 'My daughter!--oh! my daughter--let her live!' This is accomplished; your daughter is restored to you, and you call yourself unhappy. Ah! may Fleur-de-Marie not hear your highness."
"You are right," said Rudolph, after, a long silence; "so much happiness would have been heaven upon earth; but I do not deserve that. I will do my duty. I do not regret my hesitation. I owe to it a new proof of the beauty and noble sentiments of your mind."
"This mind--it is you who have exalted and elevated it. If that which I do is well, it is you whom I praise for it. Courage, my lord; as soon as Fleur-de-Marie can stand the fatigue of traveling, take her with you. Once in Germany, a country so calm and grave, her transformation will be complete, and the past will only be to her a sad and distant dream."
"But you? but you?"
"I--I can well tell you that now, because I shall always say it with joy and pride: my love for you shall be my guardian angel, my savior, my virtue, my future. Every day I will write you; pardon me this demand--it is the only one I shall make. Your highness, you will reply to me sometimes, to give me news of her, who, for a moment at least, I called my daughter," said Clémence, without being able to restrain her tears; "and who shall always be so, at least in my thoughts; in fine, when time shall have given us the right openly to avow the unalterable affection which binds us--ah, well! I swear it in the name of your daughter, if you desire it, I will go and live in Germany--in the same city with you--never more to part; and thus terminate a life which might have been more happy, but which will have been at least worthy and honorable."
"My lord!" cried Murphy, entering precipitately, "she whom God has restored to you has recovered her senses. Her first words were, 'My father!' She asks to see you."
A few moments after, Lady d'Harville left the mansion. Accompanied by Murphy, Baron de Graun, and an aid-de-camp, the prince went in great haste to the residence of the Countess M'Gregor.
Since Rudolph had informed her of the murder of Fleur-de-Marie, Countess Sarah M'Gregor, overwhelmed by this revelation, which ruined all her hopes,
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